As I am writing this, I am sitting in a beautiful conservatory, surrounded by a magnificent view of hills in the background, an array of trees in the foreground, and the amazing sound of birdsong all around. The sky is blue, and the warmth of an early spring sun is coaxing the daffodils into full bloom, while masses of snowdrops line the lower slopes. All is well! How easy it is to worship God our Maker when you are away from home, being pampered with meals put in front of you, and every need met in a beautiful environment.
What a contrast to the couple of days that precede getting away on holiday! For most people it is manic; trying to pack, remember everything, leave the home looking relatively respectable to come back to, and be ready to leave the house at the appointed time, especially if there’s a bus or plane to catch. And usually you are exhausted already from finishing up work to be able to take some time out.
God instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh to let his people go out to the wilderness, so that they might worship him (Exodus 8:1). They so needed a holiday! But why did they need to get away to worship? Surely as good Hebrew children of Israel they should have been able to worship God anywhere! Sitting here in my delightful surroundings I can tell you that it is so much easier to worship God when you have time. These were slaves – and being worked to death. Not exactly conducive to worship. Also it’s easier when you have the space. Here at this beautiful retreat centre of Whitchester on the Scottish Borders, it’s no effort. Thirdly, when you experience God doing amazing things in your life, as was about to happen for them, you can’t help but worship. All these things make it so much easier to worship and appreciate our Lord God.
But why was their exit required so they could go and worship? (Exodus 8:1) God surely does not call us to worship and adore him because he is vain and needs to hear our humble adoration! He is certainly worthy of all honour we can offer him, but also it’s because we need to worship. We were made to worship. And I think it was also something more. The people of Israel were broken, humiliated, worn out, downcast. They needed to look up and fix their eyes on the God who was able to set them free to worship. In worshipping God, they themselves would be lifted up, healed from the scars of injustice, renewed, refreshed, and have their eyes opened to new possibilities, new hope. They so needed to worship God, to remind themselves of his greatness, his power, his love.
And so do we. It’s a strange irony, that when we least feel like worshipping, that’s when we need to do it most.